Ethiopian troops move in to Jigjiga following dispute with Somali regional president Abdi Iley

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The Ethiopian National Defense Force (ENDF) have moved into Jijiga, the capital of the Somali Regional State (SRS) in Ethiopia, and have strategically positioned themselves in key installations after a break down of relations between the Federal Government of Ethiopia and the Somali regional President Abdi Mohamoud Omar (Abdi Iley)‘the one-eyed’. Supporters of Omar, who has led the Somali region since 2005, have reportedly taken to the streets to protest the Federal Ethiopian troops presence while regional officials who spoke via Facebook denounced the move by the military as a “coup”.

The move comes against the backdrop of a two-day meeting in Dire Dawa that begun on Thursday by Somali-Ethiopian leaders who oppose the rule of regional President Abdi Mohamoud Omar. After the situation unfolded in Jigjiga, the leaders urged residents to remain calm and to not attack other ethnic groups. The opposition group has announced that they have left Dire Dawa and are en route to Jigjiga.

In a Facebook live address, the Speaker of the Somali regional Parliament Mohamed Rashid Isaq confirmed that ENDF troops have seized key installations in Jigjiga but declined to offer an official response as to why. The troop deployment in Jigjiga cancelled a planned meeting by the regional parliament.

Jigjiga residents who have spoken to SPOhave described the situation has extremely tense and have said that there is very little traffic in the city with checkpoints set up throughout. There have been unconfirmed reports of looting in Dhegahbur, Jarar Zone. One resident said that he doesn’t know who is in charge of the towns security at the moment.

Regional officials remain mum on the whereabouts of Abdi Mohamoud Omar.


Somali Regional State (SRS) regional President Abdi Mohamoud Omar (Abdi Iley)

Relations between the Federal Government of Ethiopia and the leaders of the Somali region were said to have reached a flashpoint after reports emerged that attempts to summon regional president Abdi Iley failed. There were reports that Liyu Police moved into Jigjiga ahead of a rumoured vote by the region’s parliament to invoke Article 39 of the Ethiopian constitution which allows the unconditional right to self-determination including the right to secession.

In early July, the Human Rights Watch released a harrowing report that described Prison officials and security forces of arbitrarily detaining and systematically torturing prisoners for years in the notorious Jail Ogaden. Ethiopia’s new Prime Minister denounced the widespread use of torture by state security forces, describing it as a form of terrorism.